Slaying giants

•March 9, 2013 • 3 Comments

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Last Wednesday was Bluebeard Day.

It was Day Fourteen of a twenty-one day challenge I had set myself, to write consistently, every day, without getting diverted into other things and grinding to a halt. The challenge was interrupted to some degree by my car accident but that didn’t stop me writing.

I finally observed the moment where I began rewriting instead of pressing on to the end. In the rewriting, I began doubting my ideas and the self-criticism took a strangle-hold until I could write no more.

Bluebeard. That slayer of dreams and killer of ideas. (As per Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés’  interpretation in her book, Women Who Run With The Wolves )

Well, Bluebeard, I have a bloodied key. The secret door stands open, and I’m afraid my brothers are gonna get you now!

Confronting giants calls for Runes. In fact, it was one of those revelatory moments where I suddenly grasped the difference between the times that call for I Ching and the times that call for Runes. This one wanted Runes. Before I went to sleep, I donned my most magical pendant (the one pictured – I made it myself) and drew three Runes from my runebag. By tradition, the first rune represent the past, the second the present and the third, the future.

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 I use the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc and my interpretation is the result of working with the Anglo Saxon Rune Poem, researching and listening to what my subconscious tells me rather than using other people’s interpretations, thus my interpretations may be a bit different from others out there.

Ur

The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.

The aurochs represents, strength, survival, building of psychological/spiritual muscle. It is a gathering up of all the knowledge gained from life experiences that are brought to this moment. The ranger of the moors – has a wide area of dominion. It uses its strength to fight, to protect.

Ing

Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes,
till, followed by his chariot,
he departed eastwards over the waves.
So the Heardingas named the hero.

Ing is Freyr – a pastural god – Cernunnos in Swedish/icelandinc terms.The presence of a god invokes higher calling, compulsion. Gods bring tasks and challenges and purpose. When a god is present it represents the need to look for a lesson or purpose or meaning behind apparent events. It is an invitation to grow, take the meta-perspective.

Tir

Tiw is a guiding star; well does it keep faith with princes;
it is ever on its course over the mists of night and never fails.

This is the rune of destiny. It is what calls us forward through to our future and watches over the unfurling of our life’s calling. It is the rune of the path. Other runes my describe aspects of the path, but this rune is the path itself – a silver line that calls us forward through rough and smooth, high and low, darkness and light.

Thus, I bring all of my strength built up from my past experiences to bear on this present moment, an invitation to grow and take a meta-perspective while looking towards destiny. Because my sun sign is Taurus, Ur is especially significant to me and can also represent me personally, thus making it that much closer to the heart.

As I contemplated these three runes, I realised that these are really life runes for me – the kind of runes I can apply at any moment – bringing the strength of everything I have learnt and gained in the past to the present moment, where meaning is being forged and fresh instruction given, to spur me on towards my destiny.

These runes then, are my brothers, come to my rescue. By these runes, Bluebeard is vanquished.

Wylde Wyverne…

•March 3, 2013 • Leave a Comment

There is a Wise One, a druid, who lives far down south, sister to the Mallee, and sister to my heart. She speaks a language woven out of dragon-thought and a million time-defying interconnections, and has a soul blessed with too-much-seeing-hearing-and-feeling that blesses messes where others only seem determined to claw each other’s eyes out. Given the time of year, and given that I’m so deeply blessed to share conversations with Wyverne that stretch and defy the time span of our knowing each other here, I give you her poem. Although “poem” is a poor word, here. Not rich enough. I give you her expression, her comprehension…even those words are inadequate. I give you Wyld Wyverne:

Crash

•February 23, 2013 • 1 Comment

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The worst part of an accident is adding up the small moments that precede it, and not being able to reverse one tiny decision along the event continuum. Yesterday, I had a car. I had two contact lenses instead of only one (hard contact lenses are the only thing that corrects my contrary vision) and an annoying cough but no bruises. I was also able to sleep a full night.

This morning the hardest part is easing the tension from my arms shoulder and jaw. I still feel as I did yesterday – shocked, tearful. Perhaps crying is the best remedy. So much of it was my responsibility barring the speed of the other vehicle in wet, rainy conditions. It’s done. The “why” of it won’t alter events. Now I have to cope with the consequences.

Having one contact lens is annoying. That can be fixed. It just takes time as hard contact lenses aren’t mass produced. A new car will happen when it happens. Meanwhile there’s public transport and legs. The other party’s insurance company, rage and accusations – those will be handled and sorted out over time. These are the outward things.

However, I’m a druid. There’s work to be done. This crunch in the space/time continuum of paths leaves trails and eddies of raw magic. It’s very handy to be aware of this.  As I gather them up I see the moment of impact as a ripping, crunching collision of forces and the glass scattering across the tarmac is transformed into so many flowers, strewn in blessing.
Bless the wedding that the white limousine that flashed its lights to let me go through was connected with.
Bless the occupants of the cars that kicked and scattered the flowers of my headlights as the “Somebody Else’s Problem Field” rendered those of us involved invisible.
Bless those involved – us, the other driver, his wife who was the car owner and arrived later to shout her rage across the road.
Bless those who helped, the tow-truck guys, the cops; the ambulance folk who checked us over. Bless my folks who travelled down to check on us, my boys who waited at home and the passing pedestrians.

Let the circle of peace and blessing widen and extend to those involved in insurance claims, wreck disposal, panel beating or write-offs, transactions and finance. May the ripples flow gently outward to include our respective day-to-day work, public transport and coping with apparent inconveniences in the days ahead.

All of this has, hidden in its recesses, pockets of potential. One just has to know that they exist so one can work with them as they arise.  Always be aware of the traces of leftover, loosened magic available for working transformation when the unexpected happens.

Reminding myself…

•February 18, 2013 • 3 Comments

46-DSCF1091This blog started with looking at calling, mine, and calling in general. At that time I made a clear-cut decision about where I was putting my energy. I’ve started this year with my attention divided again, but I didn’t even realise I was doing it – going back to old habits.

This is the nature of me – my writing flows for a while, like a river, with sure direction, but then it wanders into an estuary. The flow slows down and gets caught up in all sorts of other consideration and details. It happens, at times where the course branches, and I, thinking the way looks appealing, dive over a cliff edge, only to find the lake below doesn’t have a destination in mind that is river-related.

It’s happened again. I could wail in despair at my vagaries, but that won’t get me anywhere. What matters more is taking that step back and recognising the pattern. I’m hardly alone. Writing is one of the most contrary endeavours out there. One can lose momentum and direction where every single idea and project is concerned, but one doesn’t stop writing – if not on laptop or paper, then in one’s head.

Yes, I have to admit I think as if I were writing everything down. I realised this just yesterday. It hadn’t occurred to me before that that this is what I do. I pick a topic that has grabbed my attention – something that someone has proposed via a discussion, some observation, and I proceed to write an essay in my head.  I have never learnt to speed read because I’m a narrator. I read out loud to myself – silently. Yes, I know that sounds oxymoronic, but what I mean is that as I read I give inflection, expression and pace to what I’m reading mentally as I read it.

This is not something I can escape from. It’s innate. I’m a writer. I’m a river. Does a river cease to be a river when it reaches an estuary? Perhaps it does. But it doesn’t cease to flow entirely, but it could – it could stagnate. I need to adjust the picture then. Not – “I’m a river”, but “I’m water” and then I can ask what sort of water do I want to be? Do I want to be stagnant? Do I want to flow fast and sure of my direction like a stream from snow melt? Do I want a bit of both? If I am water, then when I find myself in the wrong place I can lift up into the air and fly as part of a cloud back to where I need to be and rain down back into the flow I originally intended.

I am a writer. What I write is a river of words that sometimes get side tracked or caught in eddies, muddied or wrapped up with the doings of fish and nymphs and water gods and goddesses. Nevertheless, I’m a writer.

A point in time

•February 2, 2013 • 1 Comment

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The passing away of a friend has dragged up a collection of memories for me. This particular friend was very dear to us. She was the leader of the Young Adult House Church Group in those days when I was a young adult. She and her husband hosted our little group. Her daughter was my flower girl at our wedding. My husband had known her longer than I had. She was a delightful soul in so many ways: cheerful, encouraging, mothering any lost souls who came her way, giving of herself to help bring early education in the Black communities up to speed, before apartheid finally lifted and children were allowed into the previously Whites Only schools.

While all that was good stands and remains, what has been most persistent in my mind is the memory of one particular day which didn’t really involve this friend directly, but it involved the church community we were all part of, with great enthusiasm and love. It is a day I stood alone. It was probably the day that began the process by which I eventually left the church.

There was a parish meeting after the church service, during which we were to discuss where we stood, as a church, on the matter of gay people – especially gay people in relationships. It was a referendum of sorts. All the parishes in the Diocese were required to jump through the hoop and report back. We had been told we’d be given both sides of the argument. I was eager to hear what would be said and hopeful that someone could finally give everyone a clear argument in favour of the gay community.

First we heard the standard Biblical expounding of everything apparently abhorrent in the sight of God. Then we had our second speaker. I wish I could remember more. I can’t recall with clarity whether the second person to speak was a “reformed” gay person, or someone just touting the option of celibacy when gay. Either way, I remember the cold shadow that arrived as I realised we’d been had. Only one side of the argument was given, note both. In the discussion that followed, I tried to point out that this was the case. I think, had I spoken to a rock, the response would have been less stony.

The parish members, all those dear people I loved, shared meals with, celebrated baptisms with, cried with, laughed with, danced with, sang with, lined up and signed their names on a form declaring themselves part of Anglican Mainstream – an organisation designed maintain biblical values within the Anglican Church – and keep gay people out of happy, healthy gay relationships, and hamper the ministry of women in the church (no women bishops, please).

I was shocked and astounded that not one – not one single other person – seemed able to see that we had only been presented one side of the debate. I tried to protest and point out that an organisation like Anglican Mainstream was actually creating a “them and us” in a church with a long history of wrestling with deeply divisive issues and hanging onto unity with the death-grip of a bulldog. I was also angry and deeply disappointed.

There was no-one around then to tell me I had done well or done the right thing. All I had was my sadness, rage and bewilderment. This is what has leapt forward demanding my attention now. If I were to travel back in time and stand before my younger self, I would have this to say:

“Alice Winsome Suttie, on this day more than any other, you have set your foot on a path of integrity. You have stood by a sense of what is right that supersedes anything dictated to you by any other. Your conscience is alive and very, very well. You have every reason to be very proud of yourself, for you have stood alone – the champion of your own conviction and of all those not present to declare their hurt and anguish at the church’s rejection over the years. You go, girl.”

Despair – and its antidote Part 2

•January 15, 2013 • 1 Comment

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In my first post on Despair – and its Antidote, I covered one aspect of responding to despair. There is another way of looking at the world – two ways, perhaps, which sort of overlap depending on which side of the matter one stands on.

Firstly, there is one which, for lack of a better way to put it, I’ll call “biological and evolutionary”.  This perspective involves stepping back and viewing the entire history of our planet. We are but one dominant species in the history of our world. There have been others that have come and gone before us and there have been previous mass extinctions for one or other reason.  Many a colony of creature or plant has seen to its own eventual demise by destroying and overcoming its environment and resources. Perhaps we are no different and can’t help ourselves. It’s a sad indictment when we have the capacity to see what we are doing but can’t change the course of our actions, but if that is the way it is, then so be it. Our planet will eventually die anyway, as will our sun. it is the nature of the universe to evolve and devolve – a rise and fall of expressions of energy and life.

Secondly, there is the perspective of many who believe in reincarnation and take on board what is said by those who seem to have had previous life experiences and times in between. I have found Dr Brian Weiss very convincing in this regard, coming as he did from the perspective of a sceptic. From this viewpoint we are experiencing life here to learn lessons. The circumstances we create – both negative and positive – aid us in learning to transcend ourselves and our situations. Many who subscribe to this outlook also believe that we have imagined our world into existence and when we learn to imagine something better we will have that.

My own personal response to despair over the destruction of our beloved Earth is somewhere in between these options, and what I wrote in the first part. I am wary of viewpoints that suggest that it’s ok to sit back and do nothing. That is not my mandate for this life. I am too much of a fighter and defender for that. However, I do find it immensely helpful lean on the idea that there is something bigger than our immediate experience and environment.

Somewhere in this universe ,or multiverse, there may be planets where the inhabitants are getting the balance right and are learning to maintain the dream of living gently and kindly, in harmony with the environment and other living things. Perhaps in my next life I’ll be there, or perhaps I’ll be taking what I’ve learnt in this life to head off a similar disaster elsewhere. what I do know, is that I have this life, and as far as I am able I will continue to believe in the possibility of a better way of doing things and I will fight for that.

Despair – and its antidote

•January 14, 2013 • 2 Comments

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I have recently read, and responded to, a post on Facebook that dares to voice despair over our treatment of our planet. This person has the audacity to voice what is at the back of every person’s mind, who watches the rates of extinction as they are reported;  who sees the devastation of our forests, first by our chopping them down, then by our changing their composition to suit the buyers and then by the relentless fire that sweeps through destroying all; who knows about the state of our oceans and the suffering it causes our friends of the deep seas.  I read this post just after signing a petition for an oil company to clean up its seven spills in the Amazon over the last four years. I read that wail of despair, as here, in Australia, we have just had, and in some parts continue to have, a heat wave that has broken record after record.

The person had a particular point to make, one that often does the rounds as a Facebook meme these days:

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow the earth from our children.

It is attributed to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe.  The writer said, and I could hear the tears in his writing, something borrowed should be handed back in the same condition in which it was received.

Despair can sit like a monster in the shadows, and if you pay it attention, it will attack, tie down your arms, bind your feet and gag you, and you will be able to do nothing – until you drag your attention away from it and do something else. It is probably fair to say that not one of us who care deeply about our environment and our Mother Earth, do not have Despair lurking in a dark corner behind us somewhere, sometimes closer, sometimes further away, and right beside despair is its partner, Rage, and gathered there too, Inconsolable Grief. These three are paralysing. They lead to helplessness and hopelessness. That leads to surrender.

What in the light of this, is life asking of me or you? We can’t question life. Life questions us. Life demands an answer.

We can’t all go and tie ourselves to logging equipment and picket the major oil companies. We don’t all have money to finance the legal fees of the people who do. Those who have the means can help that way. We aren’t all good writers, but who says you have to be a “good” writer to get a message across to a person in power? Sometimes it’s the words written shakily by someone struggling to convey a heartfelt thing that makes the deepest impression. Don’t ever underestimate the power that gathers in words written from the heart.

All those petitions that go across your Facebook page or land in your inbox with the rest of your email?  How often have you wondered if they actually reach their destination and make a difference? Well, if you stick around long enough, you get the digest which rounds up the successes – the policies changes, the companies charged, the charges against activists dropped. You can take a moment or two to sign a petition – sign hundreds. It is letting the will of the people who care be known across the planet, with far fewer borders.

And you can talk to other people, BUT don’t get angry. When there is anger people aren’t listening any more. Talk quietly. Let people know what your perspective is, and how you feel – gently. When you whisper, people have to pay attention to hear you. Keep whispering and they will have to lean in closer.

Teach your children. Teach other people’s children. Drop whispers in their ears, not about despair and how awful it all is, but about what they can do to help. Empower them. Build them up to believe that they can make a difference in the world, even if it’s just one petition at a time.

Now rise up my fellow warriors. We have work to do.

Despair – and its antidote Part 2

To my Adipose

•January 7, 2013 • 3 Comments
Dragonwyst

Dragonwyst

My Fat, you are part of me – a well-worn coat I have developed against the cold winds of self-doubt and fear.

Bit by bit I added to you and I grew you so that I could feel I was enough for the task of taking care of my family and being the sole or main breadwinner. You are made of all the times I sought comfort in food, and you grew out of the shadows of my hiding and avoiding exercise because I never could run anyway. You padded me up through the months of my first pregnancy and stored up against the lurking doubts of how we would cope. You have been with me through job loss, moving cities, moving countries and all the early anxieties of settling in to a new life and a new culture.

And you are there, still keeping me comfortably “enough”, as I have built up my self-esteem and found new depths of peace.

Even now, you are by no means an enemy. Any exercise I do is weight training in the forty or so kilograms of bodysuit that you have become. Underneath, my muscles grow stronger because of you and I have more stamina than may be apparent at first glance.

But times are changing. I have grown dependent on you as if you were a talisman linked to my happiness and peace, as if letting go of you would throw me backwards through the years to the young woman I once was, full of fears and uncertainties as I navigated my decisions, choices and depression.  You are the comfort of an old, soft dressing gown, but as the years go by, to be honest, you are becoming shabby.

Not least, my personal summer draws near, where an extra coat is too hot to wear and too difficult to shed, and I will need all the good health I can muster.

So, over the next while, I will be letting go of you, little by little, tiny step by tiny step. I know if I’m not gentle, I’ll panic, and quickly rebuild you to your former glory and hide away again. One cannot hasten these things. Indeed, the work has already begun and my body is relishing the healthy food. I know it won’t sustain you in the long term but that’s all right.

It’s time.

On becoming a Logo-Druid

•January 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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I find it perpetually fascinating how letting things go brings things into focus.

Last year I reached a major decision point. I discarded a very long-held dream of becoming a counsellor in favour of focussing on writing. (You can read about that here.) However, that in no way detracts from the training I do have. Part of that training is an Intermediate Certificate in Logotherapy – which is as far as one can go in Logotherapy training without being a professional counsellor. It’s a suitable level of training for use in day-to-day nursing and interaction with people. And it’s a suitable level of training for druids.

I have ruthlessly discarded workbooks related to that course, but I still have a folder of work – written-up case studies and assignments – and I still have a good collection of books by Viktor Frankl and other important writers in the field. I also still have the presentation I gave at an International Palliative Care Conference in Cape Town in 2005. For some reason, I’m not entirely sure why, I shared a link to that presentation with my work manager last year. Then, in a discussion with colleagues about how we can make waiting times for patients destined for surgery more relaxing and pleasant, I brought up the subject of Logotherapy again.

By now, if you haven’t already Googled it, you’ll be saying, “for goodness’ sake! What IS Logotherapy? Never heard of it! How the heck did logos ever help anyone except with branding?”

Logotherapy is meaning-centred therapy or healing through meaning. “Logo” comes from the Greek, “logos” which translates as “word”or “meaning”. Dr Viktor Frankl had a full manuscript hidden in the lining of his coat when he was incarcerated for being Jewish during the Second World War. He lost his manuscript, but managed to rewrite his ideas on scraps of paper smuggled to him by fellow prisoners, and from those scribbled notes he wrote The Doctor and the Soul. He is probably best known for his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which describes his holocaust experience. Logotherapy is existential. It addresses matters of the spirit, not just the mind.

I can workshop the basic concepts of Logotherapy for my colleagues. It’s not just an adjunct therapy for counsellors to use, but is an adjunct frame of reference for life. It’s certainly enmeshed in mine, which brings me to the next thing: becoming a Logo-druid.

So much of druidry is awash with meaning-making. One of the roots of druid-wisdom is the Triads. An example, plucked from Druid Triads: Virtues to Live By:

“Three things resemble each other: a bright sword which rusts from longstaying in the scabbard, bright water which stinks from long standing, and wisdom which is dead from long disuse.”

Frankl had a tendency to set out his concepts in threes:

Logotherapy is founded on three tenets:

  • Freedom of Will – the concept that human beings have free choice. Even when circumstances are restrictive there is still the freedom to choose one’s attitude
  • Will to Meaning – this is deemed the primary motivation for living. This is well illustrated by the despair an individual experiences when meaning is hard to find.
  • Meaning of Life – Life is unconditionally meaningful. We cannot question Life, but Life questions us, asking how we will respond.

 Meaning is to be found through the realisation of values. Frankl described three particular groups of values:

  • Creative Values – we find meaning through exercising our talents and learning skills. Great meaning can be found through art, or solving a problem. Developing our individual potential to the full falls under this category.
  • Experiential Values – Here meaning is found through relationshipsexperiencing the other – as well as through religion and experiences of nature. The ultimate experiential value is love.
  • Attitudinal Values – Frankl describes finding meaning in unavoidable suffering as the noblest and deepest of the three. The attitude a person may choose in the face of suffering may become the highest achievement.

Frankl spoke of the unavoidable Tragic Triad which we all face:

  • Pain
  • Guilt
  • Death

For me, this is a springboard and an invitation to explore how druidry, as I live and experience it, ties in with logotherapeutic living. It’s something I want to explore and make notes about.

Thus, the interesting thing about letting go of the counselling ideal: Before, using my training in Logotherapy hung on completing further training in counselling and then the Advanced Diploma in Logotherapy.  Now, I can focus on taking what I have and exploring the “living’ ideal instead, and if somehow what I discover helps others with their living in the end, that will be a  bonus.

Interfering old druid…

•January 1, 2013 • 3 Comments

1-DSCF0082I walked the boundaries between worlds this morning. To the folk I passed I was just another middle aged woman fighting off the bulge before the heat of the day took hold. To the birds, I walked as a druid. It intrigues me how the Crested Pigeons have so much to say about corvids. All crows to them – they make no distinction except perhaps by colour. “The black crow, the black crow,” calls one, and then switches to the other option: “The pied crow won, the pied crow won.” You’d think they could find other things to talk about.

There was a magpie squabble under way in the park. Four birds, two parents and two young, were ganging up on a single parent and her youngster. I knew why that Magpie was a single parent. A week ago I had seen both parties feeding and talking together under the same trees. One bird, however, seemed unable to fly. I walked close to him to check if I was right and he crossed the road.  Therein lay the problem. At some point I suspect he’d been bumped by a car, leaving him with a damaged wing and a limp. Two days later he was dead on the side of the road and I blessed his journey into the Summer Lands.

I watched the squabble for a while so that I was clear on who was chasing who. The adults were picking on the single parent, trying to drive her from the area. As she flew from one place to another, her child flew with her. She was tired, open beaked, and flew as if a wing was hurting. I stepped into the area between the trees and between into their realm to talk to them. Those doing the pursuing came to rest, each in a different tree around me.

I told them to stop this unkindness. The persecuted one and her child had settled on the ground in the shade of a tree trunk.

“Your ways are not our ways,” they replied.

“I know, ” I answered. “But we can learn from each other’s ways.”

I sat down on the grass, and as I did so the persecuted one and her child flew up to a different tree a little away from the rest. I waited and listened while the birds negotiated among themselves in their beautiful whistles. First one spoke, then another. They confirmed their family ties and then the persecuted one added her voice stating her case – same area, different family, also need food, tough as a single parent. I joined in the discussion and pointed out that it is hard for a bird to establish a new territory on her own with a youngster, and that they were only taking the opportunity to chase her because she had no mate. She’d been there all along anyway. The space is small because of us humans and our way of living, but they do have the park which is more than most. They listened. The fight was over.

It is, I guess, the nature of druids to interfere. Perhaps it is part of our calling.

I continued my walk. Further along I saw another Magpie youngster I had watched before. On the previous occasion I had watched that one’s parent fend of a bunch of marauding Indian Mynahs. On that occasion the young Magpie had walked close by me making little sounds almost like a “meow” – baby talk. This time the same bird was perched on a post, practising semi-under-under-the-breath adult whistles and runs of song, so like a teenager with voice breaking!

Singing in the Rain – Australian Magpie

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